A 6-year-old Chicago boy accidentally shot his 3-year-old brother in the head with their father’s gun during a deadly game of “cops and robbers” Saturday night, police say.
Their father, Michael Santiago, 25, has been charged with felony child endangerment. Police said he left his loaded handgun on top of the family’s refrigerator in their Humboldt Park home, which allowed his children to access it.
The 3-year-old boy, Eian Santiago, was rushed to the hospital, where he later died. The shooting happened at about 9 p.m.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Says He Bought the Gun From Another Gang Member for Protection
Michael Santiago is a former member of the Spanish Cobras gang. He bought the gun from another gang member for protection, because he was a witness in a murder trial, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“The gun was purchased off the street. It was kept loaded, and it was wrapped in pajama pants on top of the refrigerator,” Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph DiBella said, according to the Tribune. “In a videotape statement the defendant said he kept the gun for protection because he was a former gang member who snitched on a gang member in a murder trial.
Santiago is a manager at Papa Ray’s Pizza and was at work at the time of the shooting. His wife, the victim’s mother, was at the store with their 1-year-old child. The boys’ grandfather was home at the time and heard the gunshot.
Santiago was arrested Sunday. The gun was not legally purchased and Santiago does not have a firearm owner’s identification card or concealed carry license, police said.
2. Santiago Showed His Son Where He Kept the Gun a Week Before the Shooting
Santiago previously showed his 6-year-old son where he kept the gun, Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph DiBella said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“About a week prior to the shooting, he showed his older son where he kept the gun. … He took the gun from on top of the refrigerator, unwrapped the pajama pants and explained to the 6-year-old that the gun was only to be used by adults,” DiBella said.
Judge James Brown said during Santiago’s court appearance, “”This is the ultimate tragedy. And whether I said a $1 million bond or a lower bond, it’s not going to bring back this child. … I’m sure the defendant did not intend for this to happen, but it happened. And it’s what happens when people have guns who shouldn’t have guns. That’s why we’ve had 2,300 people shot in Chicago so far this year.”
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy told the Associated Press, “It’s real simple. If that gun is not in the house that kid is alive today. We see this happen over and over and over again.”
3. The Boy Doesn’t Remember Shooting His Brother, His Grandfather Says
The 6-year-old boy’s grandfather, Hector Salgado, told the Chicago Tribune that he doesn’t remember the shooting.
“He’s OK,” Salgado said. “He doesn’t even remember. He doesn’t know nothing about it. He thinks his brother is in the hospital sick.”
The boys’ other grandfather, Israel Lasalle, was home at the time of the shooting.
“I heard a pop, you know, like somebody had shot, so I opened the door and I look out and he was running up the stairs and he told me somebody shot his brother,” Lasalle told ABC 7. “You know how kids are, they get into everything. There is not a safe place where you can put a gun where a kid can’t reach it or find it.”
4. The Boy’s Mother Says Her Son ‘Thought It Was a Toy’
Angie Lasalle defended her husband in a Facebook post on ABC 7’s page, and said her son thought the gun was a toy:
MY HUSBAND IS A GREAT HUSBAND N FATHER WE LIVE IN A TERRIBLE NEIGHBORHOOD ANY GREAT MAN N FATHER WOULD WNT TO PROTECT HIS FAM. WE CNT EVEN GO OUTSIDE WITHOUT SOME SHOOTN IT WAS AN ACCIDENT PLEASE NOONE WANTED THIS TO HAPPEN I LOVE A PIECE OF MY LIFE MY HEART THE GUN WAS PUT AWAY OK MY SON WAS LOOKING FOR SOMETHING N FOUND IT. N THOUGHT IT WAS A TOY THEY WER NOT ALONE IT JUST HAPPEN U DO NOT KNW US SO U HAVE NO RIGHT NO RIGHT TO SIT THEIR AN JUDGE US WE R A VERY CLOSE FAM N U HAVE NO IDEA WAT WE HAVE AN ARE GOING TO ENDURE! FOR GOD SAKE WE LOST A CHILD.
On her Facebook page, Lasalle wrote, “OmG NOONE KNWS THE PAIN IM GOIN THRU I CNT BELIEVE HES GONE MY BEAUTIFUL BABY BOY!!!I CNT FEEL CNT EAT SLEEP OH MY SWEET BABY BOY I MISS U SOOOOO MUCH MY HEART HEARTS IT GOT RIPD FROM MY CHEST OMG LORD GIVE ME STRENGTH TO ENDURE ALL THIS!!!OH MY EIAN MY BBY MY TARZAN”
5. Santiago Says He Can’t ‘Believe My Baby Is Gone’
“PLEASE SHARE N. HELP SUPPORT MY BABIES FUNERAL ANYTHING CAN HELP I CNT BELIEVE MY BABY IS GONE PLEASE HELP ME LAY HIM TO REST,” Santiago wrote.
Santiago was held on $75,000 bail after he made his first court appearance Monday. He could face additional charges as the investigation remains ongoing.
“The family is totally upset about the whole incident and at the same time they’re trying to raise the money to get this young man out,” anti-violence advocate Andrew Holmes told ABC 7.
A neighbor told the news station, “I don’t think that he should be charged for his own child’s death. He didn’t kill his child, it was an accident. I don’t want to blame him, but in reality there is negligence, negligence in the sense he was not being careful. Take the gun, hide it somewhere where the child would not find it.”